That precarious tip-toe across the grass or sand juggling a clutch bag and a glass of champagne is a summer classic.
Regularly seen at weddings, the polo or just a summer afternoon get-together, it’s the inadvisable footwear, bearing a far-too-spindly heel, that is usually to blame for that distinctly lopsided and ungraceful gait.
That’s unless of course you’ve caught on to the go-to shoe that cancels out any unease at the prospect of an uneven surface.
Timeless and chic, laidback yet polished, the classic espadrille shoe holds the essential accessory solution for any summer event. The perfect companion to sweeping summer dresses, they also look great with a crisp white shirt and wide-legged linen pants, too.
They also feel comfortable and allow your fee to breathe without having to have toes on show.
It’s possible you already own a pair, so useful and perennially stylish, they can easily stay in the wardrobe and be worn summer after summer.
What are Espadrilles?
Espadrilles are casual shoes typically made with canvas or cotton fabric uppers and a flexible sole made of rope or rubber. They often have a characteristic braided jute or rope sole, both lightweight and flexible.
Though they do come in flat versions, great for the beach and the guys too, it’s the heeled version that works incredibly hard in your summer wardrobe.
Spain is considered the birthplace of the espadrille. The sole of the shoe was traditionally made with braids of dried esparto grass (where the shoe takes its name), a plant indigenous to southern Spain, and documented appearances of the footwear date back to the 13th century.
L-R: Castañer Chiara Espadrilles; Zara Espadrilles; Saint Laurent Espadrilles; Gucci Espadrilles
In more recent decades the style gained prominence, including in Hollywood films – think Lauren Bacall in 1948’s Key Largo and Grace Kelly in 1955’s To Catch a Thief.
Another key bunch of espadrille influencers? The Royals. Princess Diana, The Duchess of Edinburgh, Sophie Wessex and Spain’s Queen Letizia have all been snapped in the demure style. It’s a mainstay of the Princess of Wales, Kate Middleton’s summer wardrobe and yes, the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle is also a fan. Both are known to wear Castañer Espadrilles, the traditional Spanish brand founded in 1927 by Luis Castañer and his cousin Tomás Serra.
At the end of the 60s, Lorenzo and Isabel Castañer (the next generation) met Yves Saint Laurent in Paris. Saint Laurent subsequently commissioned the first wedge-heeled espadrille in history, transforming a simple casual shoe into a high-fashion, runway-worthy style that quickly became a staple with stylish women everywhere.
Where can I buy Espadrilles?
Both flat and heeled versions are is readily available at various price points, though if you do want a pair that works hard over the years, invest in quality.
This season, New Zealand footwear and accessories brand La Tribe has joined forces with fashion label Caitlin Crisp on a limited-edition pair in both black and white. Handcrafted in Portugal from Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified canvas, the shoes come with two sets of interchangeable ties – one matching set, and one set of broderie lace straps. The styles are available from December 8.
“As a shorter girl, who loves to spend the whole night on the dance floor, I need a shoe that is comfortable enough to dance the night away in,” explains designer Caitlin Crisp.
“Hence why Espadrilles have been my go-to shoe since I can remember and are often what I base my designs around,” she says. “I love the way they can dress up an outfit, while still remaining understated. Of course we had to add an extra special CC touch being the matching broderie strap.”
Classic Castañer styles are available online directly from the brand, or through retailers like Net-a-Porter and The Iconic.
Flat options with chic logos are the dominant trend from designer brands like Chanel, Saint Laurent, Chloe and Gucci.